The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the Obama administration today to reform the federal wildlife-killing agency known as “Wildlife Services,” which kills nearly 1.5 million coyotes, bears, otters, foxes, birds and other animals each year without any requirement to disclose its activities to the public. The secretive killing — which includes aerial gunning, traps and exploding poison caps — has gone on for decades with little public oversight or rules requiring the use of the best available science or techniques to reduce the deaths of nontarget animals. Today’s petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees Wildlife Services.
“Wildlife Services is an out-of-control, rogue agency that shoots, snares and poisons more than a million native animals every year, many unintentionally — including at least 13 endangered species,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and the primary author of the petition. “Despite calls for reform by members of Congress, scientists and the public, Wildlife Services is still operating without the kind of legally binding regulations that ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying American public, creating a free-for-all that should have been ended decades ago.”
The petition calls for the agency to:
- Develop regulations to ensure use of the best science when determining whether action should be taken against animals;
- Avoid killing nontarget animals, including endangered species;
- Ensure ethical treatment of targeted animals and exhaustion of nonlethal means; and
- Require release of reliable information to the public about the animals it kills.
“For far too long Wildlife Services has run roughshod over America’s wildlife,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “We call on the USDA to clean house and bring Wildlife Services into the modern era of predator conservation and stewardship by adopting rules that justify their actions and that allow for public input and the integration of ethics, economics and science-based ecology.”
Under various names, Wildlife Services has killed millions of animals since the early part of the 20th century, targeting native carnivores like coyotes and foxes, prairie dogs, birds and many other species at the behest of agribusiness interests. The agency contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, and other species during the first half of the 1900s, and continues to impede their recovery today. More....